One of the celeb-spotting highlights of my time at Coachella 2011 was seeing pop starlet Katy Perry, or should I say Katy Perry surrounded by a fat entourage of men allowing only the slightest glimpse of her pixie-sized body, walking across the field towards the VIP area. I found it mildly fascinating that, in a festival where numerous stars could be seen hobnobbing and generally enjoying themselves, Perry found it necessary to travel in a way that would paradoxically maximize not only her protection but also her visibility. There’s few things better suited to announcing to the world that HEY! PLATINUM POP STAR PASSING THROUGH! than traveling in a caravan.
Luckily, one of those few things is tour riders, one of the best ways to determine whether a pop star’s desire for control is beginning to spiral a bit out of reach. The Smoking Gun recently got a hold of Perry’s 2011 rider, and it delivers. We’ve all heard the “only brown M&Ms” horror stories common in the industry, but Perry, who prefers organic snacks, takes things to a diva-tastic level. Demands run the gamut from precisely delineated types of chairs (cream-colored armchairs, God help you if they’re in eggshell white) to a somewhat disturbing repulsion towards carnations (underlined AND capitalized, indicating potential harm to Katy if she is indeed exposed to such flowery trifles) to a comprehensive list of things her driver is NOT allowed to do, including…
One of the hardest things to do at Coachella is wake up in time to get to the festival early to catch the first few bands. Usually this isn’t too big of a problem – rarely has a band I’ve loved been set too early. Sunday was an exception, as Phosphorescent took the Mojave tent stage at 12:15. Missing out on the extra sleep was a great decision – Matt Houck and his band played their whiskey-strained alt-country with a steel guitar riffing and piano-pounding passion that enervated the sleepy residents of the tent and woke me up for the day better than any energy drink.
The only thing worse for a band’s Coachella audience than an early start time is extreme heat, and as Sunday afternoon stretched on and temperatures reached the highest they’d been all weekend, it wasn’t all that surprising to see Menomena’s set at the Outdoor stage less than packed as concertgoers scrambled for the tents. Menomena, after all, aren’t the same band as they used to be – with founding member Brent Knopf leaving the band this past January, songs on which he sang lead vocals were nowhere to be found. But what they did play, sticking mostly to songs from 2007’s Friend and Foeand last year’s Mines, was up to the rabid fans’ standards who braved the 100 degree heat. Closer “TAOS” was the obvious favorite.
A rough night meant I didn’t make it to the festival grounds until close to 3, but that was never really a problem: the first act I wanted to see happened to be Sputnik favorite The Tallest Man on Earth at 3 pm in the Gobi tent. Throughout the weekend the Gobi seemed to be getting the least love, but this afternoon it was unusually packed, everyone there just to see one tiny Swedish dude and his guitar. He didn’t disappoint – any fears I had of his occasionally grating voice transferring to a live setting were quickly dispelled: he actually sounded better live! Everything came together on “King of Spain,” the audience lifting Kristian Matsson’s voice to new heights and his acoustic guitar ringing out over the tent grounds quite effectively.
My indie rock embarrassment of riches began shortly afterwards with Americana group Delta Spirit at the Outdoor stage. They may not be the most original band, but as a live performance they put on quite the show. Singer Matthew Vasquez’s long dark locks made him look like Dave Grohl’s lost twin, but he sounded more Walkmen than Foo Fighters, his gravelly voice propelling the band’s dust-and-blood barroom tales further than they could have hoped. For a band with a minimal following at the festival, Delta Spirit, like Titus Andronicus the day before, really delivered it for their fans.
For all the hype surrounding Coachella 2011 – the six day sellout, the mounting confusion and problems regarding the festival’s new wristband ticket method, the fear of scalpers selling fake tickets and wristbands not shipping out in time, once the festival was under way it was still the same old Coachella. Friendly people slapping hands and exchanging “happy Coachellas!;” temperatures routinely soaring above 100; enough drugs to make Noriega and Kesey blush; and music. Music that was at times brilliant, enthralling, obtusely weird, fist pumping, merely okay and atypically shocking and everything in between, but still the lifeblood of the festival no matter who came . . . and there were a lot. From shirtless fraternity boys to forty-year-old scene veterans, from stoned, bleary-eyed hipsters to day-glo-adorned rave kids, Coachella stuck them all in a boiling polo field of a pot and, for one weekend at least, helped them appreciate everything and everyone else. Coachella may be becoming more of a place to be seen than appreciated nowadays (over the course of the festival I saw Katy Perry, Tara Reid, Paul McCartney and even David Hasselhoff, all almost exclusively in the VIP lounges enjoying the drinks rather than the music), but few festivals can match its uniting experience. And it remains unforgettable.
I didn’t know it at the time, but Friday was going to be the coolest day of the weekend – a “pleasant” 93 degrees, blinding sun…
I’m really not sure what to think of the new Justice song, which premiered in an ADIDAS commercial you can check out below. It definitely has a killer beat, and I like that the French electro duo is sticking to the sound that made them one of the preeminent voices in the dance explosion of the late ’00s. But it does kind of sound like they just made a point of throwing as much random shit into the song as possible. To be fair, however, it does make more sense in the context of the commercial (which is awesome, by the way). Look for a probable extended mix of the tune on their upcoming album later this year.
The Strokes broke the Internet earlier today when they released the first single from their upcoming album Angles on their website, which still isn’t functioning quite as it should. Because I’m a generous and loving person, thought I’d upload it for your listening pleasures here. “Under Cover of Darkness” finds the Strokes seemingly trying to recapture some of that Is This It magic, complete with bouncy guitar chords and Julian Casablancas’ ever-present cold. Angles is slated for release on March 21.
Who says you can’t remix a classic? Sputnik favorite Pretty Lights certainly doesn’t seem to give a damn, as his newly released, uh, 2010 Unreleased Remixes EP, which you can download in all its seven-song glory here. “Time” might be my favorite, but check out his Steve Miller Band and Kanye remixes for some more electro glory.
For all the shit Britney gets nowadays, her singles have always been top notch. Even when her vocals were long ago deemed utterly fake and her persona as manufactured as a slice of American cheese, a fan would always have the singles: the sensual “I’m A Slave 4 U,” the clever “If You Seek Amy,” the absolutely perfect “Toxic.” And here is Britney trailblazing pop yet again with a single that blows most of Circus out of the water. Britney does dubstep, something I couldn’t believe until I verified from multiple different streams. Listen to the whole song (it’s really good!), but the bridge around 2:05 almost made me fall off my chair.
One of the blogosphere’s more interesting stories of late has been the rapid rise of Sonny Moore, better known now as Skrillex, in the electro scene. With only two EPs to his name on deadmau5’s label, Moore at one point had six songs near the top of the Beatport Top 100, a site that specializes in electronic releases and is an excellent barometer of artist success. This is a feat that has never happened before, and it’s even more fascinating when you learn that Moore, who was the former frontman for post-hardcore band From First To Last, only began DJing in the past couple of years. His debut EP came out in June, while Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, featuring this rather filthy dubstep remix by everyone’s favorite Dutch drum ‘n bass trio Noisia, was just released last month. Who knew all that pent-up hardcore aggression would translate so well to electro?
A couple of weeks ago Sputnikmusic’s own Ryan Flatleyinterviewed DJ Pretty Lights in preparation for his performance this upcoming weekend at the massive NYC dance festival Electric Zoo. Headlining that festival is Dutch trance DJ/producer/radio show host Armin van Buuren, who’s gearing up for his fourth album release in September by playing nearly nonstop this past year. And when DJ Magazine has voted you the #1 DJ in the world for three straight years, gigs aren’t exactly in short supply. We were lucky enough to catch up with Armin before his headlining appearance at the UK’s definitive dance festival Creamfields this past weekend.
Rudy Klapper: Being the number one DJ in the world is a pretty demanding job, particularly when you’ve been voted the best multiple years as you have. How has 2010 been turning out so far as you gear up for your album release?
Armin van Buuren: Well, it’s been really, really phenomenal. I thought last year was sort of the peak for myself but this year I’m releasing my new album, I’ve been doing a little less DJing in general because I want to focus on that. But I still toured South America and North America, some stuff in Asia. But yeah, in the summer though I’ve just been full on doing a gig almost every day and it’s been really fantastic. Now I have 21 new tracks finished and I’m very proud.
This was released online a couple of weeks ago, but I totally had no idea Ra Ra Riot were even releasing a new album until last week. Since then The Orchard (which comes out 8/24) has been pretty much all I’ve been listening to. Can’t say I was a huge fan of their debut, which reeked of a bit too much Vampire Weekend, but their new album is far more stately, pushing the strings (and those gorgeous girls) to the front of the mix and generally slowing the pace down. Of course, “Boy” differs from most else on the album by being ridiculously bubbly, but it’s also infinitely catchy and is just the kind of summer tune I want right now.
Featuring some sexual production from dubstep producer Rusko and English DJ Switch, “Teqkilla” is easily one of the best tunes of M.I.A.’slove-it/hate-it new record. Like a certain fine south-of-the-border spirit, “Teqkilla” is the kind of thing that becomes more agreeable with each spin, glitchy beats and tribal drums propelling a ferocious beat.
If I thought Day 1 was packed, Day 2 took things to a whole new level, making it extremely hard to walk anywhere efficiently (and definitely not without a group constantly linking hands), and making the floor of the main stage a lost cause before I even arrived. I dared to see some trance at the Neon Garden when I first arrived, catching Aly & Fila and a whole bunch of fluorescent-painted individuals who must’ve been the happiest concertgoers I’d seen yet just fist-pumping like it was Jersey Shore West Coast-edition. Next up was will.i.am at the main stage, who stuck out like a sore thumb on the lineup sheet and played a predictably oddball set heavy in funk classics to liven the crowd up as the sun began to set.
Photo courtesy of Spin.com
Filipino/Dutch DJ Laidback Luke followed will.i.am, and was playing when what was easily the most surreal experience of the festival occurred. The floor had long been closed to any more spectators, but as Luke continued to play unruly concertgoers began to wash over the high fences barricading the stands from the floor, spilling onto the floor and causing absolute havoc among security. The sound was soon cut off, and from my vantage point way up in the stands, the combination of what looked to be a surefire riot, helicopters suddenly swooping low overhead, and the stadium in a frenzy, was terrifying but really, really fucking cool all…
Over 80 artists and DJs. Five stages running the gamut from house to dubstep to trance and more. 185,000+ people attending and dancing until 2 a.m. over two days. More Ecstasy pills than the population of Los Angeles. Calling the annual L.A. Electric Daisy Carnival a mere “rave” is an insult to something that has to be considered one of the largest music events in the world, not to mention an intense kaleidoscope of sounds and visuals that require far more work and setup than your average festival show. Oh, and don’t forget the varied array of carnival rides, from your standard Ferris wheel and fun house to spinning tops and massive swings (best ridden sober). With such a breadth of artists and experiences to be sampled it’s practically impossible to catalogue every highlight of the weekend, and the fact that the Coliseum grounds where the event was held was nearly impossible to traverse effectively past sundown made it difficult to see everyone I wanted, but those I did rarely disappointed.
…and this was EARLY
Opening at 2 in the afternoon every day, the festival was already jam packed by the time I arrived (usually around 4-ish), and like Coachella before it, EDC’s popularity has skyrocketed over the past couple of years. The main stage (the Coliseum stadium including the floor) was half empty during the Friday headliner in 2009; this year they closed off floor access before sunset,…
We’re deep in summer already, so what band to turn to then the band that dominated a solid half of my summer last year? Vancouver punk duo Japandroids have been working on a project that sees them releasing a series of 7-inch singles over the course of the year – “Younger Us” (along with a cover of X’s “Sex and Dying in High Society”) being the second. If you want a copy, you better hurry, as there’s only 2500 clear vinyl copies available (buy here). As for the song, it’s sort of a bizarro version of “Young Hearts Spark Fire,” with a similar guitar part and surging drums, all wrapped loosely around Brian King’s lusty, nostalgic lyrics. In other words, it’s Japandroids, and it rocks.